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The End of Innocence

21 July 2016 | Updated 01 January 1970

The attack in the French city of Nice has brought a new dimension to Euro-terrorism.

There are three characteristics of this contemptible deed which are worthy of note. The first is the tactics used. It is almost two years ago that a Daesh leader suggested driving a car into a crowd in France. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel finally carried out that murderous act on 14 July 2016, however he chose a 19 tonne truck as his weapon of destruction. Sickeningly his chosen target was a crowd of innocent people, including a large number of innocent young children, leaving a fireworks display on France’s National Bastille Day. As if the terrorists menu was not already complex, this tactic brings a new and worrying flank to the equation.

How do the police stop such a vehicle? In France, where all the police are armed, insufficient firepower was directed to shoot out the tyres of the vehicle or kill the driver. Both would have risked some civilian casualties but that may be better than allowing the aggressor to continue his carnage. Make no mistake, this battle is now open urban street warfare. The response has to be overwhelming and concentrated firepower designed to kill a criminal in case he or she is also wearing a suicide vest. That mindset is not policeforce philosophy. The police are taught and trained to contain and calm a situation and restore order. What is now needed to defeat the current threat is aggressive tactical fire designed to close with and kill an enemy. These are military tactics and it should be of concern to all political leaders that Daesh assaults are pushing security more and more towards a military solution – Hollande has reportedly put a further 10,000 reservists on alert for possible call up.


Regional response

Secondly, the murder of 84 people took place away from Paris and during a state of emergency and heightened alert profile. Comparing this to the UK, if a terror attack in London were to happen, then the police armed response may (and only may) be able to contain it until reinforced. If it took place in Stoke or Poole, then the concentration of firepower would be far, far slower and likely inadequate. The damage and mass casualties of a vehicle, bomb or marauding terror attack are caused during the first 2 to 9 minutes of the assault commencing. It is unlikely that even one armed response team of 2 to 3 men and women would have deployed in that space of time. To fix and destroy even a small group of terrorists will require at least 10 to 15 armed officers using suppressive fire and thus providing manoeuvre space for their colleagues. Policemen and women in the provinces are simply not trained to employ such tactics. Nor do they carry the quantities of ammunition, or aids such as smoke grenades, required to assist their progress.



Lastly, there have been three major attacks in France in the past 18 months. The government has failed to interdict them – extremely difficult when the perpetrator is an unknown, unstable loner known only for petty crime and violent behaviour. Clearly weapons and ammunition, including hand grenades and explosives are easy to obtain in France and this must now be controlled. The politicians have failed to bring in new policies and strategies to halt the cancerous spread of radicalisation. They therefore should expect more dreadful deeds in the coming months. French confidence, following a safe European Cup football competition and the approaching end of the state-of-emergency, was just starting to grow again. Now it lies in tatters. France is indeed at war and increasingly being pressured towards an ever more military response.

In the UK, police and military numbers continue to decline and morale is low in both establishments. The new government has a great deal of work to do spearheaded by a past Home Secretary who is very well aware of the weaknesses of our current security apparatus.



SERIFM is spearheaded by TWinFM in conjunction with TriTectus Strategic Resilience Limited. SERIFM aims to create more resilient organisations and assist the FM community to share threat data and exploit new technology. It is the intention of SERIFM to help enable this sharing. Security and Resilience In Facilities Management will provide the ideal platform to help create a highly informed customer, to demand the highest quality imagery from visual surveillance systems, to inform the supply chain of the need for resilience and to highlight new technologies, procedures and tactics as they are deployed and as experience is gained from their use. SERIFM is a not-for-profit group dedicated to leading the fight back against crime and strengthening resilience at a time of reduced national resources.

SERIFM’S inaugural conference will set the UK’s strategic resilience picture as seen through the eyes of the Metropolitan Police, the Cabinet Office, academia and the security services.  The date and location to be advised.

Article written by Jeff Little, OBE | Published 21 July 2016


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